Weekend MusicWatch: Coastal Classical

Keith Clark leads the orchestra at the Astoria Music Festival.

Keith Clark leads the orchestra at the Astoria Music Festival.

If the state seems to be tilting a bit to the left this weekend, that’s because of all the classical music fans heading coastward, where most of the action is. The Astoria Music Festival, directed by Keith Clark, kicks off Saturday afternoon at Astoria’s Liberty Theater with a chamber music matinee featuring a stellar lineup (Los Angeles Philharmonic concertmaster Martin Chalifour, Oregon Symphony concertmaster Sarah Kwak, charismatic Russian cellist Sergey Antonov, and ubiquitous Portland keyboard master Cary Lewis) for pair of splendid chamber works: Dvorak’s evocative “Bagatelles” and Mendelssohn’s first piano trio.

Saturday evening’s orchestra concert celebrates the bicentenary of that most influential of composers and incorrigible of anti-Semites, Richard Wagner, with music from his Ring operas (featuring top notch opera singers from around the country) and the ever lilting “Siegried Idyll.” The festival is offering a buy-one, get-one-free deal for this concert only; call 503.325.9896.

Sunday’s all-Russian matinee enlists the same forces to perform Glazunov’s Violin Concerto (featuring Chalifour), plus the suite drawn from Stravinsky’s glorious breakthrough ballet score, “The Firebird.” On Tuesday, Astoria’s historic Grace Episcopal Church hosts a candlelight Baroque music concert led by Musica Maestrale lutenist Hideki Yamaya and harpsichordist Gwendolyn Toth, of New York’s Artek Baroque Ensemble; they’ll play Italian and German Baroque music by Corelli, Buxtehude and more. Wednesday’s concert is an all-tango affair featuring Oregon Symphony/FearNoMusic string players Joel Belgique and Ines Voglar and other singers and musicians playing music by Piazzolla, Lou Harrison and other composers from several Latin American composers.

Also on the edge of the continent, at Lincoln City Community College, the Siletz Bay Music Festival continues with pianist Gerald Robbins playing a passel of those marvelous miniatures Domenico Scarlatti composed for Baroque keyboards, plus a Violin Sonata (with violinist Haroutune Bedelian) and a Schubert Duo Sonata (with fellow pianist Lorna Griffitt). Saturday’s chamber music concert features Louise Farrenc’s Piano Quintet #1 and Mendelssohn’s Piano Sextet.

Sunday afternoon’s casual chamber concert at Eden Hall features works by contemporary American composer William Bolcom, Beethoven, Leonard Bernstein, Massenet, Claude Bolling (remember those popular jazz-classical albums he did in the 1970s?) and much more. Back at LCCC, Monday night’s free chamber music concert offers Ravel’s great violin and piano sonata along with Richard Strauss’s Sextet from his opera, “Capriccio,” and then one of the all-time pinnacles of chamber music, Schubert’s String Quintet. Wednesday night’s chamber concert features still more Schubert, plus music by Brahms, Gordon Jacob and more.

Chamber Music

More chamber music chimes from house concerts on the other side of the Coast Range. On Saturday, near Eugene, a benefit for the Oregon Mozart Players includes Schubert’s Arpeggione Sonata, a movement from his “Death and the Maiden” quartet and Mozart’s magnificent String Quintet K. 515, and a movement from Franz Schubert’s great “Death and the Maiden” string quartet and his “Arpeggione” Sonata. Also on Saturday afternoon, in a free concert at downtown Eugene’s Atrium building, one of the many early music ensembles that seem to be sprouting like strawberries, Ensemble Primo Seicento, plays (on period instruments including cornetto, organ, Baroque violin and sackbut) a fascinating program of rarely heard 17th century music by Italian composers including Castello, Picchi, Cavalli and Cesare. These early Baroque influences on composers like Bach make this show a nice set up for the upcoming Oregon Bach Festival.

On Sunday afternoon in Salem, members of the Salem Chamber Orchestra play Aaron Copland’s Sonata for Violin and Piano and Shostakovich, Trio No. 2 in E Minor.

And in Portland, the Double Reed Divas from the Oregon Chamber Players play dance music by Handel, Salieri and more on Sunday at Tabor Heights United Methodist Church, while Chamber Music Northwest kicks off its 43rd season Monday and Tuesday with artistic director David Shifrin joining long time Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center colleagues David Finckel (late of the Emerson Quartet) on cello and Wu Han on piano, for music by Brahms, Bruch, and Beethoven.

Music for Voices

The top choral recommendation of the month so far goes to Cappella Romana‘s Sunday concert at Portland’s Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral, which reaches both ends of that fine choir’s spectrum: mesmerizing Medieval Byzantine sounds from Greece and Turkey, and sacred music by 20th century Greek and Greek American composers.

More Eastern music is on stage at Portland’s Alberta Rose Theater on Sunday, when Iran’s Homay and Mastan Ensemble sing and play Persian music on traditional instruments. Songwriter Parvez Homay’s music has been banned in his native Iran, but we can hear it in Oregon. And still more eastern sounds resound from Portland’s Old Church at Sunday night’s concert of Russian opera arias and art songs by Rimsky-Korsakov, Tchaikovsky and more Russian masters.

While Oregon’s relative lack of racial diversity sometimes make it seem like the Great White Way, music from the real one – Broadway – is onstage this weekend at the Portland Gay Men’s Chorus show tunes concert on Saturday at downtown Portland’s Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, featuring music by Stephen Sondheim, the Gershwins, Rodgers and Hammerstein, and other leading lights. The 160-voice choir will be abetted by five dozen more, courtesy of Diverse Harmony, the nation’s first gay-straight youth chorus, who also present a free concert with songs, stories, and dance Friday at Portland’s St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church. Finally, you can hear one of Broadway’s early triumphs in Eugene this weekend, in the Shedd’s new production of “No No Nanette.”

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